He was a goner, he could feel it. He could no longer believe that all vampires were evil demons. Everything he'd learned in the past few weeks pointed to a world that was curiously parallel to the mortal world. Just like humans, vampires could be good or evil. They could love or hate. And since he was in love with one of them, he was trying to make peace with their world so he could accept it. Still, turning his back on the CIA and his old life would be tough. Too tough.
He tossed the can into the trash. What was he thinking, that he could marry Darcy and live happily ever after? Well, she could live forever, but he'd grow old and die. How long would it take before she was tired of his old ass? And a hundred years from now, he'd be long gone and forgotten.
So was it worth it to throw away his life's work for some flimsy dream? If he was sensible, he'd get himself eliminated tomorrow night. And never see Darcy again. But for the first time in his life, being sensible sounded stupid.
He said good night to Garrett and trudged up to his room. He turned on the computer and checked the surveillance cameras. The last two vampires, Otto and Roberto, were in the billiards room, playing pool. The foyer and portrait room were empty. He switched to the pool house and instantly regretted it.
Darcy looked fresh from the shower, her hair damp and her body scantily clothed in skimpy pajamas. His feelings of longing and despair came hurtling back. How could he give her up? Vanda's talk in the hot tub had reminded him how rare and special love could be. Darcy was clever, brave, everything he'd always wanted. She was also nervous and agitated. She was pacing back and forth across the room. From her facial expressions and mumbled words, he gathered she was arguing with herself.
She strode to the kitchen and removed a bottle from the fridge. She shook it, unscrewed the top, and poured dark red liquid into a glass. Austin winced. She took something else from the fridge. Chocolate syrup? She squeezed some into the glass, then stirred the concoction with a spoon. Then, she added some ice cubes.
She left the kitchen, sipping from the glass. Austin sat back in his chair, his heart sinking. She might try to disguise the taste, but the result was the same. She was drinking blood.
He strode to the bathroom and took a hot shower. He stuck his head under the nozzle, but the stinging spray couldn't wash away the memory of Darcy drinking blood. How could he join her world?
There is nothing more sacred than love. Vanda's words drifted around him and clung to him like hot steam. How could he give her up? He loved her. But could he commit to a vampire?
He dried off, then padded back to the bedroom with the towel wrapped around his waist. He glanced at the computer screen. Darcy was no longer in the main room of the pool house. She'd probably gone to the bedroom where he didn't have a camera.
He checked the foyer and staircase. Empty. The east wing hallway.
His breath hitched, and the towel tumbled to the floor. Darcy was headed his way. She'd put on a white bathrobe to cover her skimpy shorts and tank top.
He strode to his suitcase and pulled out a pair of clean boxer shorts. Red silk. Well, it was better than Sponge-Bob. There was a light tap on the door. Holy moley. He tugged on the shorts and closed the laptop. He shoved wet hair out of his face and cracked open the door.
Her face was pale and tense. Her gaze drifted over his body, then back to his face.
He tried to keep his expression blank. "This is not a good idea."
She pressed a hand against the door to keep him from closing it. "You said we should talk."
"I changed my mind."
She frowned. "This is your last night here."
Our last chance to be together, the words hovered over them, unspoken. "I'm not sure it can work."
Anger flickered in her eyes. "Are you giving up without a fight? That doesn't sound like a macho super-spy." She shoved the door open with a surprising spurt of strength.
Vampire strength. Could she actually overpower him? Austin stepped back. "Are you angry?"
"You think?" She shut the door, then paced across his room. "You agreed to get yourself kicked off the show tonight. And yet, you're still here."
"I wasn't trying to stay on. It just happened."
"Right. You just can't help being the sexiest guy on earth. It must be an awful trial for you."
He propped a shoulder against the wall and folded his arms across his chest.
"Are you trying to get me fired?" She continued to pace. "Don't you realize this is the only network where I can work?" She stopped to glare at him. "Are you totally insensitive to what I'm going through?"
He gritted his teeth. "Are you done?"
"No!" She strode toward him. "You should have never climbed into the hot tub with Vanda."
"We only talked. You know that. You were watching." He gave her an irritated look. "Like a hawk."
She snorted. "Well, you've certainly recovered from your repulsion. Or maybe it's just me who repulses you."
"You never repulsed me!" He pushed away from the wall. "You just confused the hell out of me. Thinking about the sun and the beach. Drinking ice cold chocolate. Having a damned pulse. How can you be dead and have a pulse?"
She planted her hands on her hips. Her br**sts heaved with each angry breath. "I am not dead."
"Undead, then, if it makes you feel more alive." He lurched toward her and yanked the bathrobe off one shoulder. He ignored her gasp and pressed two fingers against her carotid artery. Her pulse throbbed against his fingertips.
"Well? Am I dead yet?"
"No." Dammit. How could he walk away from her when she was alive? "Your heart rate is actually a little fast."
"Could be that I'm a little miffed." She lifted her eyebrows. "Or a little excited."
He lowered his hand and stepped back. "How?"
"How could I be excited?" She tilted her head and examined his body. "Well, I'm all alone with the sexiest man on earth, and it's been five years since I've - "
"I meant how can you have a freakin' heartbeat?"
"How can I not? I'm walking and talking. I'm thinking about you naked. Now, how could I do that if my heart wasn't pumping blood to the various parts of my body?"
Blood was certainly getting pumped to certain parts of his body. And it didn't help that she kept glancing at his shorts. Five years? "What happens to you during the day?"
She sighed. "When the sun rises, my heart stops. Then, when the sun sets, it's like being struck with a divine defibrillator. Everything jerks back into motion."
"It sounds painful."
She smiled slowly as she untied the sash to her bathrobe. "Oh, but it hurts so good."
Holy seduction. He watched her robe slide to the floor in a heap next to his discarded towel. As he lifted his gaze to her face, his attention snagged on her tank top. It was stretched across her br**sts, the thin white cotton almost transparent. Her ni**les were plump and pink. All it would take was a touch of his fingers and they would pucker. No, correction. All it took was a look. They pebbled before his eyes, the tips hardening into pink nubs. His groin responded in similar fashion - growing hard, but hardly a nub.
She stepped toward him. "You said you were in love with me. Is that true?"
He closed his eyes briefly. His groin was swelling, his heart aching. "Darcy, you should have someone of your own kind. Someone who can love you and live with you forever. I can't give you what you need."
"But I want you."
"Dammit." He marched toward the door. "You know I work for the CIA. If I go around killing vampires, it's going to cause a strain on our relationship, don't you think?"
"You could quit."
And be sucked into the vampire world, living only at night, constantly surrounded by creatures who considered him a snack. "You're asking me to give up everything."
"Then forget it." She leaned against the door to keep him from opening it. "Forget the happily ever after. It's a crock. It hardly ever happens, even in the mortal world."
"Don't say that, Darcy. You deserve to be loved."
Her eyes glimmered with moisture. "We don't always get what we deserve, do we? I learned that the hard way. So now, I'll just take whatever I can get. Even if it's just one night."
His body screamed yes, but still he fought it. Because, damn it all, one night would never be enough.